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Published: December 19th 2007
Village covered in snow
Viewed from the shuttle on the way to Vienna
Friday 14th December
Once again it was gently snowing when we left our room to walk the 50 metres tot he main square to await our shuttle to Linz. We have taken the lazy way here by choosing a shuttle but otherwise we had to walk half a km to the bus stop, then take an hour bus or train ride to Ceske Budejovice before hooking up with the train to Linz.
We were the only passengers in the shuttle and we made our way through the mountains toward Austria. As we climbed higher we saw patches of snow that gave way to a light frosting everywhere. It was magical!
At Linz we just had time to purchase tickets and jump on the train. We then had to walk through the crowded carriages past Business class, First class and several second class carriages until we found ourselves somewhere to sit. These carriages are much plusher than the Czech ones and travel at much faster speeds, even so it was almost 2 hours before we reached Vienna, just after 1pm. We asked for directions to our hotel at the Info point and were given a free map and excellent directions
Rags standing on the RingStrasse- you can see the snow.
for the underground.
We sat and ate our lunch before setting off. The underground was easy but as always it was hard to get our bearings once we came out and we set off in the wrong direction. After asking a couple of people we eventually found the hotel we'd booked. The woman at the desk spoke English well and was very friendly and our room was lovely with a large bathroom. We also quickly discovered it had free wireless Internet. We had looked for that when booking but weren't sure that we'd actually managed to book one with this service. We downloaded our messages and just as well as we had one from Katie who was our booking agent for the cruise, “Due to a high water situation on the Danube, the Bolero will not be able to reach all the way to Vienna. Your itinerary will not be affected, however, you will be spending Saturday night at the Hilton Vienna Danube hotel. From here you will still get to tour Vienna, and then on Sunday you will take a bus to catch up with the ship, and continue with your tour as scheduled.” Glad we saw that
or we would have had a fruitless search for the Bolero tomorrow!
We set off to explore, deciding to walk towards the Danube and see if we could locate the Hilton as the river wasn't far from us. It was still snowing but unlike when we were last in Vienna when it was gently falling, this time it was blowing around in a flurry and the snowflakes looked like large chunks of suds. We were warm in our layers, scarves, hats and gloves. We located the river but not the hotel. We did find some warm shops to look inside and on the way back stopped for something to eat and drink as well as bringing some cheese and biscuits back with us to the hotel.
Saturday 15th December
It looked cold outside when we awoke, and a check on the Net confirmed this when it showed today's minimum was expected to be -2 degrees with a max of 0! After a good local breakfast we packed our bags and then left them to walk along Praterstrabe into the old city, the Innere Stadt . It was cold on our faces but as we were well rugged
This memorial to Franz Schubert is typical.
up and walking, it was very pleasant as there was no wind.
Stephansdom (St Stephen's Cathedral) is in the heart of the city with its grand 13th century cathedral (with scaffolding as most places seem to have) and here there were tourists everywhere, some going for a ride in one of the many hansom cabs, each with two horses, lined up waiting for them. At a cost of 80 euros we passed on this experience!
From here we walked around the city block eventually returning to our hotel by 1130, ready for checkout by noon. We didn't explore as much as we normally do as our tour will take in much of this area over the next two days.
Yesterday we thought we had worked out where the Hilton was so we decided to walk the half dozen blocks with our gear as this would give us a bit of exercise. We should have checked where it was before we left as when we got to where we thought it was we were told it was a further 3 kms down the riverbank! We got a good dose of exercise but were happy to finally get to the
hotel. After settling into our large room we went searching locally for somewhere to eat, finding a shopping mall amongst the many housing apartments and near several sporting stadiums. Rags convinced Judy to eat before she was too waylaid by all the shops, most of whom were having sales. Replenished, it didn't take her long to find a new top and she only missed out on getting a pair of trousers because they had run out of her size.
The snow was really coming down thickly when we left to return to the hotel, much nicer than rain if you don't have to be in it for a long time. A hot bath had us ready for a short“nanny nap” before a couple of pre-dinner drinks.
There were champagnes waiting for us when we went down to dinner and here we met Joyce & George, from near Santiago, USA. They a lively couple and we enjoyed our meal with them.
After tea we were driven around the Ringstrasse, ending up at the Kursalon where we sat through a musical evening which included ballet, opera and classical music from Beethoven & Strauss.
Sunday 16th December
After a 0700
breakfast we had to have our bags outside our room by 0800 and departed on the bus at 0830. We again toured the city seeing many more places than we had seen on our previous visit or our explorations of the last few days. We were then given a conducted walking tour of the city with some of the tour members opting out very quickly as they couldn't keep up with what we thought was a sedate pace. We felt that the attitude of some a little obnoxious. We began to feel more cold than we had ever done previously - we suspect it may have had something to do with the slow pace and the many stops.
We were then given free time, to look around and to buy lunch having been given a 15 euro credit each to cover the cost. WE headed to the Xmas Markets where we immediately had a hot wine each. We felt the warmth radiating through us with this! After the big breakfast we had we weren't very hungry so ate a raw herring & onion roll at the markets and topped up with some almond gingerbread. Delicious!
The optional tour
to Schonbrunn which was the Hapsburg's summer palace. Judy decided to join it but Rags wasn't interested. There are 141 rooms and 42 of hem are open to the public. We traipsed through these sumptuous rooms like cattle herded through fields - our guide gave us some brief information about each room in this mini Versailles like building. Rags opted to wander around another set of Xmas Markets rather than being tied to a set tour.
The trip to the 'ship', moored at Krems, took nearly 90 mins on the bus, passing through towns most of whom had lighted churches or other Xmas decorations visible from the highway. Judy spent most of this time 'resting' her eyes. The M.S. Bolero was a welcome sight and our room was very warm and comfortable. The shower recess was of a size which made us ponder on how some of the group would manage to close the door!
A well presented meal was served, we sitting with a couple we had met earlier and another couple who joined us when we were seated. This was meant to be the 'Captain's Dinner' but we had no sign of the captain.
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